South Africa

Enyobeni trial: Public outrage over ‘disappointing’ 100-day sentence or R5 000 fine meted on owners, but NPA is satisfied

Enyobeni trial public outrage

While the 100-day imprisonment sentence or an alternative payment of a R5000 fine meted out to the owners of Enyobeni Tavern for selling liquor to underage persons has sparked widespread disappointment, the National Prosecuting Authority is defending the sentence.

East London Regional Court magistrate Kevin von Brett triggered public outrage on Friday when he handed Sikhangela Owen Ndevu, 54, and Vuyokazi, 45, owners of the tavern where 21 youngsters died, the ‘disappointing’ sentence.

Von Brett meted out the sentence two days after finding the pair guilty of selling or supplying liquor to persons under the age of 18 on the night nine boys and 12 girls died at the Scenery Park tavern on 26 June 2022.

READ: Enyobeni tavern owners found guilty of selling liquor to children

Tavern owners are first time offenders

In delivering his sentence, he said a harsher punishment for the pair who are first-time offenders would be extreme and impossible.

He added that he believed the imposition of a fine would be appropriate.

While the ANC Womenss League, Eastern Cape Department of Social Development MEC Bukiwe Fanta, and SA National Civic Organisation slammed the sentence, the NPA believes it was appropriate.

“In court, we submitted that they should be handed a custodial sentence, but then the Act also provides for the option of a fine, so it is within the law that they were given a sentence with a fine. We wanted a harsher sentence, but we accept this one,” NPA spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said.

Tyali added that the couple was on trial for selling liquor to children, not for the deaths of the children.

Not on trial for deaths of 21

“The sentence is not for the deaths of the children. An inquest into the deaths will tell us who should be criminally charged for the deaths,” said Tyali.

READ: Enyobeni tavern owners sentenced to 100 days in jail or R5k fine each

An inquest into the deaths will be held at Mdantsane Magistrate’s Court at a soon-to-be announced date.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board opened the case against the Ndevus and revoked the tavern’s liquor licence after it found that 18 of the 21 deceased were under the age of 18 years.

Called for comment, ECLB spokesperson Mgwebi Msiya said: “We are not necessarily happy with the sentence; we had hoped for a tougher sentence than this one. However, we do recognise the fact that this sentence is within the provisions of the Eastern Cape Liquor Act.”

Mgwebi added that the entity hopes that although the sentence appears to be lenient, it still serves as a deterrent to other liquor traders who may consider breaking the rules.

Social Development MEC disappointed

In a statement on Monday, MEC Fanta said: “I am disappointed at the sentence given. 21 children died after being sold alcohol illegally. Their deaths were a painful and difficult ordeal. Parents and families place their hopes for the continuation and sustainability of their homes in the future on their children. Also, young children are the treasure and the future of communities and the nation.”

READ: Enyobeni Tavern owners’ application for dismissal of charges denied

Fanta called on the owners of taverns and other places of entertainment, where the majority of customers are young people, to ensure that regulations, especially those relating to access and closing times, are strictly adhered to.

She also revealed that almost half of the school-age adolescents (49.6%) in South Africa have at least consumed an alcoholic beverage in their lifetime.

Fanta added that the prevalence of alcohol use among school adolescents in the country ranges from 22 to 53.8%.

The secretary of the ANCWL in the Eastern Cape, Siphokazi Mani, said: “While respecting the legal process, the ANCWL Eastern Cape firmly believes that the sentencing falls short of serving as a meaningful deterrent. The ANCWL views this sentence as inadequate, failing to reflect the gravity of the tragedy and the responsibility that lies with the establishment’s owners.”

The Eastern Cape secretary of SANCO, Tony Duba, described the sentence as astonishing.

He said SANCO in the province will petition the NPA to appeal the sentence.

NOW READ: Enyobeni Tavern: Parents threaten shutdown if not given post-mortem results